The Legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman

Including a Critique (from the Right) of Aleksandr Dugin

When thinking on the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman, we are, of course, thinking of the legacy of a certain characterization of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger — specifically, his legacy as a political philosopher. This characterization does not appear to be too uncommon throughout the respective academic literature. Perhaps Leo Strauss had prepared for this. After all, he is the one who is most likely to be mainly responsible for popularizing the question of Heidegger’s commitment to the political, outright. However, and despite this, it is perhaps the Russian Political Strategist Aleksandr Dugin who firstly comes to mind, and today especially, when considering such a legacy. Yet, where Dugin stands within the story of Heidegger’s legacy as a political philosopher is yet to be decided.

In order to place Dugin within the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman, as strange as this may seem, we have to first decide upon the relationship between Dugin as a political strategist, and his own theory. That is, we have to decide if Dugin has simply announced Heidegger’s da sein as the subject of a new political theory, or if he himself is also an activist of his Fourth Political Theory. Coming to such a decision may seem overly easy — we may want to say that Dugin, of course, is an activist of his own Fourth Political Theory. However, there is good reason for deciding otherwise. This article has been written with the intention of pursuing the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman. In order to do so, we must firstly consider the relationship between Dugin and Fourth Political Theory. This relationship takes priority within the pursuit of this article. This is on account of the popularity which Dugin’s announcement of Fourth Political Theory was received with.

Part 1, Fourth Political Theory

Now, in considering the relationship between Dugin and his Fourth Political Theory, we must, at first, remember that Dugin has firmly placed himself within the position of the omniscient world observer of either sociology, and/or of scientific anthropology. As such, his being is as a scientist; and we can be sure of this. Certainly, when he calls for his multiculturalism, he sits in that position. In doing so (that is, in accounting for the multiplicity of cultures), Dugin is committing himself to the idea that each culture has their own inherent truth — that is, to the idea that truth is relative. Specifically, he champions for “the unique Russian truth”. Inasmuch, we can make quite a dramatic claim about Dugin, himself. Insofar as liberal political activity is preoccupied with the security of individual or group beliefs by way of securing the rights of those individuals or groups, we can thus venture out to call Dugin an identity politics liberal. Of course, I do understand that this is most likely a shocking claim. Anyone championing for liberal economic policy, liberal immigration policy, or a mixing of the cultures and races in some capacity, would surely understand Dugin as an opponent. From those positions, and insofar as Dugin champions for something of a separate but equal multiculturalism, most opponents would understand him as an ethno-nationalist. We might categorize these objections to Dugin as the liberal critique, or the critique from the Left. And yet, it is precisely because Dugin champions for rights so much (in his case, the right for minority cultures who are jeopardized by globalization to continue into the future) that the spirit of the Right can equally align with those provocateurs who name him “the most dangerous thinker today”.

No doubt, Heidegger’s metaphysics, as expounded upon in Being and Time, do encourage the explication of a new political theory. The evidence for this is the explanatory power of those metaphysics, which have usurped those of the epistemological metaphysics of Enlightenment literature (and the political manifestation of those metaphysics, which we call liberalism). Dugin as correctly identified this. However, a new political theory which takes Heidegger’s da sein as its subject will have a post-liberal character about it. This post-liberal political theory could never be presented through the mere documentation of the many worldviews which the human animal has produced. Neither could it be presented through the management of those many worldviews. In the introduction to Being and Time, Heidegger offers his reader the same understanding by way of a psychological diagnosis of da sein,

Da sein has had its historicality so thoroughly uproot by tradition that it confines its interest to the multiformity of possible types, directions, and standpoints of philosophical activity in the most exotic and alien of cultures, and by this very interest it seeks to veil the fact that it has no ground of its own to stand on. Consequently, despite all its historiological interests and all its zeal for an interpretation which is philologically ‘objective’, da sein no longer understands the most elementary condition which would alone enable it to go back to the past in a positive manner and make it productively its own.”

This passage from Being and Time appears to have explicitly anticipated Dugin and his multicultural project by way of critique. While Dugin has announced Heidegger’s da sein as the subject of a new political theory, he is, from a post-liberal position, that “omniscient world observer” operating within epistemological metaphysics, which is also the foundation for the subject/object dichotomy, epistemological relativism, and the virtue of objectivity (as that which reckons with relativities). As a political strategist and political activist who equally reckons with relativism by way of objective reasoning, Dugin is, therefore, a progenitor of the epistemological paradigm. Heidegger’s life’s work (and especially his work in Being and Time) can be understood as an attempt to progress further onwards from this paradigm. Any political strategy or political activity founded upon Heidegger’s early metaphysics will equally have progressed from epistemological political strategy and political activity. Therefore, decidedly and from a post-liberal position, Dugin does not present the political activity of a Fourth Political Theory activist. And, insofar as his activity does not present a foundation in Heidegger’s early metaphysics of da sein, his popularity stands as an obstruction for anyone whose activity does. This, then, is quite an unfortunate state of affairs for political theory in general, to be sure.

Of course, outside of the question of Dugin’s relationship to Fourth Political Theory, we can sympathize with the apparent intentions behind Dugin’s separate but equal multiculturalism. Surely globalization demands critical attention “no”? It would be a shame if the world were to be consumed by American imperialism via market economics — that is to say, it would be a great loss if the world were consumed by a commodity culture. Without a doubt, the spirit of the Right is well-equipped for a critique of such imperialism and such cultures. Therefore, let us sympathize with those who champion for “the unique Russian truth”, as Dugin does. But let us beware in doing so. Let us sympathize without taking up relativism into our own philosophical constitution. After all, if we are honest with ourselves, then there can be no doubt as to the reality of our own world. The evidence for such reality is the very appearance of the world. If there was no reality to this world, then no activity could be made to effectively contend with it. This holds whether you live in a world defined by the incomplete explanations of the Big Bang, or whether you go further with a more comprehensive language of God. Consider that even in denouncing religion, you are still a creation of God — are you not? Because for a Christian, you surely are; this should be no surprise. It is the nature of the world that we all live in the same world, together — no matter if, whether or not, our world is solely described by physics, or if supplanted with the occult objects of the Christian doctrine. Look around you, at the very location in which you are reading this article. Surely your descriptions of the various phenomena (whatever they may be) have a basis in reality. Relativism simply does not cohere with our experience. Therefore, we must admit that relativism exists only as a political handicap. However, this handicap persists only for as long as we hold onto the metaphysics which have been recorded within Enlightenment literature and maintained by way of liberal values. Let us keep that thought in mind, as we proceed.

Of course, what has been argued for here is also, admittedly, quite a shame. It is unfortunate that Dugin, as a political strategist, does not represent a political theory which takes Heidegger’s da sein as its subject. Because, despite all of the critics, there is value in a cult of personality. And, of course, Dugin nearly fits the bill. His position within history, as the premier Russian philosopher at the time of the collapse of the USSR, makes him well suited for being that personality. But, of course, we should always be true to ourselves when looking for personalities to embody our values. If we honor those values, then we must place personality second; otherwise, we risk confounding the values with the personality. Therefore, for those of us standing with the hopes of something resembling a Fourth Political Theory — that is, a political theory which takes Heidegger’s da sein as its subject— then we must let Dugin fall to critique. And we must do this, despite that in Dugin’s absence, we are presented with a void.

In continuing with our project to frame the narrative of the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman, and in denouncing Dugin (or at least, bringing him into question as our personality), this does not mean that we are without an inheritance. However, we must be willing to venture into indirect, and therefore, perhaps quite unexpected thought systems and political activity. Let us now continue into that territory.

Part 2, Small is Beautiful

The legacy of E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful is well known. Inspiring activist movements such as Buy Locally and Fair Trade, this book was an essential piece of early Green Movement literature during the 1970s. However, while its legacy is often cited (along with its relevance in future political activism), unfortunately, this applicative type of talk has overshadowed talk of the book’s metaphysics. And yet, Schumacher was certainly concerned with the message which metaphysics has to offer. To be sure, we only need to consider the fact that the word metaphysics appears throughout Small is Beautiful a surprising number of times, considering that it is a collection of reflections on economics and includes only economic prescriptions. However, of course, a shared interest with Heidegger on the tradition of metaphysics hardly qualifies him as belonging within Heidegger’s political legacy. And, after all, Heidegger is not mentioned in Small is Beautiful, not even once. Therefore, a question: why do we turn to Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful when thinking of the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman? Heidegger is surely not known for his contribution to the discipline of economics. Should we not rather be concerned exclusively with metaphysics and politics when thinking upon Heidegger’s political legacy?

In order to answer these questions, we will now compare the early metaphysics of Heidegger to that of Schumacher, as those metaphysics are represented in Schumacher’s economic prescriptions. What will be revealed through this comparison is that Heidegger’s metaphysical architectonic, as presented in Being and Time, grounds and supports the economic prescriptions offered by Schumacher in Small is Beautiful. We will then use this comparison to bring Schumacher into the story of the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman.

2.a) “Becoming Existence”

Firstly, when recalling the language of Small is Beautiful, we remember that Schumacher writes of a harmony with nature as a work which “brings forth a becoming existence”. Existence becomes — that is, existence is presenced and intellectually refreshed in each moment of its articulation. In this moment of articulation, the mechanical and social hierarchy of the world is announced. Equally, a history is also announced. History unfolds through the succession of mechanical objects which we know as belonging to time. And through such presencing, we find ourselves animated — pulled towards — that causal chain of events. Such a feedback loop with nature has been characterized psychologically as a “cognitive flow” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) — a process of challenge and resolve. However, it is also consistent with Heidegger’s exposition on the ecstasies of time, including the moment of authenticity as it appears in, for example, Being and Time.

2.b) Projection and Communion

Continuing on, we remember that such a becoming existence is characterized by a work which “gives a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties”, and “enables man to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task”. Of course, here we cannot think of “common task” as merely performing the same exercise, like picking apples from the same tree, or turning the same screws on the assembly line. A common task is that which is commonly projected. Inasmuch, Schumacher’s becoming existence is equally consistent with Heidegger’s hopes for National Socialism, and with Heidegger’s own phronetic political project as it manifested during his year of rectorship at Freiburg university. (I ask my reader to refer to the article, Heidegger, the Statesman for an explication of that project; because, to explicate that project here, in this article, would be to simply repeat what has already been said.)

Now, Heidegger understood that the foundation for projection is not well described by the modern sciences, such as psychology, anthropology, or sociology. These sciences are preoccupied with the values and the value systems which we know as culture (anthropology) and held by a society (sociology). Heidegger is, instead, interested in describing the conditions for such values. Being and Time describes an architectonic of value-creation. Historically, Heidegger attributes the inception of value metaphysics (that is, thinking on being in terms of value) to Fredrich Nietzsche. Whether speaking of food and chairs, or feminism and liberty, or God himself, each of these objects are valuable in the pursuit of life. Their existence is proven (that is to say, they cannot be doubted) in that they exist as a value. Insofar as this architectonic describes the conditions for even the objects of physics, it is prior to physics, prior to mechanics, or metaphysical.

The subject of Heidegger’s metaphysics is, therefore, not the subject of any science — but is instead the foundation on which any science can be possible, including the aforementioned psychology, sociology, and anthropology. The subject of value metaphysics can be described as the very wheeling and dealing commerce by which the world comes into being. Including the coming into being of any particular you or me. If we allow ourselves a bit of fantasy, we can imagine the process by which the world, as the total collection of values, comes into being. Imagine, for example, an organism which, by way of its commerce within its environment, created definitions in that environment such that those definitions allowed for more articulated (and presumably more useful, but not necessarily) commerce. Whether the organism of our consideration is some fantastical primordial ooze or simply a human baby, we can imagine the process of articulation — of drawing definitions around sensual experiences — such that the organism could have in its possession mom, then dad, then me. This interpretation of metaphysics takes commerce as the source of value-creation. That is to say, value metaphysics are economical.

Now, in order to describe the subject of value metaphysics, Heidegger turns towards pre-modern texts. Indeed, for an Ancient Greek, concepts such as culture and society would have been utterly foreign. However, the Ancients offer insight into the essential phenomenal lived experience, perhaps on account of a kind of primitiveness. In Aristotle, for example, we do not find conceptions which could be translated as culture or society. Instead, we find the being of those who have λογος as κοινωνια (koinonia, “communion” or “joint participation, a share which anyone has in anything”). For Heidegger, the priority of κοινωνια is evident. After all, already having a joint participation (that is, being thrown into projection, in Heideggerian language) is the ground for the intellectual (or cognitive, to use more scientific language) articulation of values and value-systems. Κοινωνια, then, is both prior to and the condition for values, simultaneously. Values and value-systems are secondary. (Note that here, what I am attempting is to further divorce Dugin, as an anthropologist and political strategist, and his playground of thinking from Heidegger, the metaphysician of value metaphysics.)

2.c) Proximity

To progress the argument further, then, we know that Schumacher also acknowledges that for such a becoming existence that is founded upon a common projection, “there is need for a ‘cultural structure’ just as there is need for an ‘economic structure’.” “Each region, ideally speaking, requires some sort of inner cohesion”, with a capital city serving as a center. Schumacher’s program for a regionalization is equally a bioregionalization — one in which the metropolitan center does not serve the international identity, but is instead a canvas for the cultural-economic region. And, of course, bio- here does not mean genetics, or whatever narrow signification which might carry over from the scientific industries. The existence which springs forth through such “becoming” is life itself — it is life-logical. Biological. This, then, is a political and economic prescription which honors the proximity of da sein, Heidegger’s subject of value metaphysics.

Perhaps what is obvious by now, through the construction of our argument here, is that Schumacher is not championing self-help solutions founded upon the disciplines of psychology or upon Western spirituality. Solutions making use of the church (which has been utterly liberated from commercial activity) would, of course, only pacify the population in order that the population may suffer peacefully from within their economic conditions. (Note that this is a diagnosis which Karl Marx also made.) Nor is Schumacher championing self-help solutions, such as those found within the imported practices of Eastern mysticism, which, again, pulls the human animal away from everyday commerce in order that he may suffer from within it. Instead, Schumacher, like Heidegger, is interested in the robustness of everyday commerce. Finally, what should be equally obvious is that Schumacher does not champion for social conditioning and a domestication of the human animal founded upon some form of socio-logic. Nor is he interested in rights or the laws which protect those rights, whether those laws are policed by administrative governance or by social governance. Instead, Schumacher turns towards project-oriented economic solutions.

Part 3, First economics philosophy

Remembering back to Heidegger’s own words, we can recall that,

“Despite all its historiological interests and all its zeal for an interpretation which is philologically ‘objective’, da sein no longer understands the most elementary condition which would alone enable it to go back to the past in a positive manner.”

Heidegger’s “elementary condition” begins with phenomenological method and (as I have argued throughout this article) ends in economic reform. Therefore, more crystalline than a new political theory which takes da sein as its subject, would be a new political theory as one of value creation — that is, one which is beyond myth (Dugin) and is essentially economical in nature. And because the subject of those metaphysics is the subject of value creation, this new political theory would speak the language of economics. And so, while the comparison may be awkward, we can place E.F. Schumacher, the economist, in the void which was left in denouncing Aleksandr Dugin, the anthropologist. Of course, we do not suppose Schumacher exhausts the legacy of Heidegger, the Statesman; however, all the same, he is a premier economist to be considered within that legacy, for the reasons stated above. Of course, what should be clear by now is that the economics of value metaphysics are more spiritual than what we are used to thinking. They do, after all, displace the more common non-economic spirituality of today — which is, as has been argued, often divorced from everyday commerce, such that they are reserved for Sundays or the after-work meditation classroom.

In thinking of the name of the discipline which treats of the subject of value metaphysics, we turn towards Aristotle’s metaphysics, τα περι της πρωτης φιλοσοφιας (that is, “the [writings] concerning first philosophy”). Of course, the French philosopher Rene Descartes offers a more English-friendly term for this realm of thought; prima philosophia. And so, following the Latinized expression, we might say that we are here, in looking to name the discipline which grounds a post-liberal “Fourth Political Theory”, we are naming a prima economics; prime economics. However, for ease of translation into English, let us simply name this grounding discipline, first economics.